Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ten things you should tell your children about 'sexting'

  1. In my job working in Child Protection we are at the forefront of the current epidemic of children and young people sending indecent images of themselves or other people on their mobiles or via social networking sites like What’s App, KiK, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. The eponymous dick or clit pic.  Really, I mean come on. The genitals are like nature’s little joke. Why on earth would you want to photograph then anyway? On a daily basis we see cases where children have either sent the images themselves or shared an image that was sent to them. Few seem to realise that this is actually a criminal activity that risks them ending up on the Sex Offenders Register.  Here’s a handy guide to help you educate your child  and yourself about the very real risks associated with so called ‘sexting’.

    1.   The sending of indecent images of a person under the age of 18 is a criminal offence. It matters not one bit if it was consensual or not or if you were the one who took it or you just shared it with your mates.  It is illegal.

    2.   In the US there have been a number of suicides of young people after indecent images they had shared appeared on social media sites

    3.   An image on the internet has no natural lifespan; once posted it can be copied by many others including those who may be predatory abusers. It can be seen on the other side of the world within hours.  

    4.   CEOP (Child Protection and Online Exploitation) is aware of cases where self-taken indecent images (which were not produced as a result of grooming or facilitation) have ended up on paedophile chat sites and forums. 

    5.    Crimes involving child abuse images fall under Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978, as amended by section 45 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to extend the definition of children from under 16s to under 18s. It is a crime to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess, possess with intent to distribute, or to advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of any person below the age of 18. 

    6.    The consequences of this to the person who takes or shares them are far reaching. A prosecution for any of these offences means that an offender is placed on the sex offenders register for a duration that is commensurate with the sentence they receive. Even though the times are generally reduced for those aged younger than 18, this can still mean in some cases a considerable time spent on the register.  Does you child really want to risk this?  Although the focus in the UK is education rather than criminalisation, in the US, children have been prosecuted for taking and distributing indecent images of themselves or others. There is nothing to say that the UK standpoint may not change in the future

    7.   If indecent photos of a young person come to the notice of a school or the police then they have a duty to pass the information on to their local authority Children’s Social Care department. This means that the child’s name and details of the incident will be recorded on their database indefinitely. In the future, if your child wants to become, say a sports coach, a volunteer with children or in fact any job that requires a CRB (now called DBS) or local authority check, this information will be disclosed.  In years to come does you child really want a future employer to know they sent ‘dick pics’ or photos of themselves masturbating to classmates?

    8.   If you think that this is something that only happens with older teens then think again.  I have had cases of children as young as nine - and it wasn’t an isolated incident.

    9.   Once you have pressed ‘send’ you have lost control of your photos. You may think it’s safe to send it to your partner because he/she loves you, right? So what happens when they don’t anymore? Or you do something to upset them? There are women (and probably some men) who are still having to spend hours each week tracking down photos of themselves that have been uploaded and shared to porn sites. Is that really what you want for yourself?

    10.   Do  not let your child join KiK. Of all the social networks this is the worst and the one which produces the most reports. Unlike other apps, you don't have to register. It is totally anonymous. A paedophile's dream.  If your child already has a KiK account, delete it. End of.

    Sexual experimentation and pushing the boundaries is normal for young people but maybe explain to them that they should try and do it without the use of their phone camera. Below is a short video produced by the NSPCC. Share it with your child and start the conversation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

50 Shades of Domestic Abuse

Well, its out now, isn't it. Fifty Shades of Grey. We've had the book, we've got the film, what next? The multi-positional Ana and Christian dolls complete with rolls of gaffer (not gaffa) tape and cable ties?

I have a huge problem with Fifty Shades, in fact I have quite a few, not least the fact the the book is probably one of the worst written piles of doggy do that I have ever read and clearly written by a repressed, middle aged, Middle England, middle class women for other repressed, middle aged, Middle England, middle class women. It coined the phase 'mummy porn'; porn that was suitable for mummies who hadn't had sex since the birth of Little Jonny some years before. Suddenly it became okay to read 'porn' on the train, on the bus, on the beach.

But this is porn of the worst variety because it packages up sexual violence against women as a very thinly veiled love story.  Let's be clear. This is not a love story. This is a story about an older man using his wealth and power to corrupt a young virgin (she'd have to be a virgin wouldn't she), to subjugate her and coerce her into performing acts that she would not otherwise have done. It is not a voyage around the sexual awakening of a young woman or any other such rubbish. It is a film, written and directed by women, that advocates sexual violence against women. So much for the sisterhood. It is not about BDSM. It is about a middle class, middle aged, Middle England woman's totally false view of BDSM. BDSM is consensual. It doesn't require coercion. The BDSM community are very unhappy about how they are portrayed and rightly so.

Fifty Shades is not a harmless little love story with a bit of naughtiness thrown in. It is a story about control,  coercion, rape, stalking and sexual assault. What does that add up to? Domestic abuse. Fifty Shades is a story that glorifies domestic abuse against women. No more, no less. Every woman and man that goes into the cinema and watches this is condoning domestic abuse. Every penny spent on the book, the e-book and the film goes to a women who condones domestic abuse for her own profit. For someone who has worked on serious case reviews into domestic homicide, this makes me feel sick. Is it an wonder that so many quality actresses wouldn't touch it with a bargepole?

It may sound harsh but look at the facts of the film. Would you accept someone turning up to your workplace unannounced, following you on a night out, letting themselves into your home without your permission? Is the correct response to the admission of virginity a violent act of rape? Is coercion the same as consent?

Most young people already find out about sex from the plethora of porn that is easily accessible giving them a totally unrealistic view.  Sex is that thing where men have huge penises and can keep going for hours and women just mewl in a horribly kittenish way while having multiple orgasms.  The last thing we need is this saccharined version of the 'virgin gets a rough f*ck' you can find on any 'PornRUs' website. This film tries to make domestic abuse acceptable. It is a terrible lesson to our children and one that they will access with even more ease than 'Hot High School Sluts'.

In my work I see the sharp end of domestic abuse and everyday sexism. Feminist has become a pejorative term.  I support the No More Page 3 campaign and you only have to read the comments made by men on their Facebook page to understand that respect for women has an awful long way to go.  Women have fought for over a century for equality of opportunity, to be treated as equal citizens, as human beings rather than the chattels of men. When I see how many young men in their late teens and early twenties are involved in domestic abuse, quite frankly I wonder what the point has been.

When the 'hottest movie release of the year' is a film that glorifies and glamourises control, coercion and sexual violence while at the same time normalising a powerful man's domination and subjugation of a naive young woman I wonder if we have moved on at all.

And before you start saying its only a bit of harmless fun I would suggest you do a little reading around the subject. Find out how often porn and the sort of everyday sexism depicted in Fifty Shades is a factor in sexual assaults. You might be surprised.

On a slightly lighter note, should you feel the need to handcuff (with consent) your significant other to the bed and gaffer tape his/her mouth, just be aware that when you pull it off you will get the mother of all lip waxes. Be warned.

And finally, to all those of my friends who have seen Fifty Shades, quite frankly, I'm disappointed in you. I thought you were better than that.